New federal child abuse and neglect data shows a decline in the number of victims who suffered maltreatment for the second consecutive year. As in past years, rates of abuse and neglect are highest among infants and young children.


The Children’s Bureau at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published the 28th edition of the Child Maltreatment Report, which analyzes data collected by state child protective services (CPS) agencies. The report is based on fiscal year 2017 data, which is the latest data available.


Of the 3.5 million children who were the subject of an investigation or alternative response in fiscal year 2017, an estimated 674,000 children were determined to be victims of maltreatment, down from 2016. In total, 74.9 percent of victims were neglected, 18.3 percent were physically abused and 8.6 percent were sexually abused.


“We appreciate the partnership and work state and tribal child welfare programs do every day to prevent and reduce child abuse and neglect cases in their area,” said Lynn Johnson, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families. “The report shows us that we are making strides in reducing victimization and deaths due to maltreatment, however, the numbers of victims and deaths are still higher than they were five years ago, which is significantly concerning. We look forward to continuing our work with state, local and tribal child welfare agencies to further reduce cases of child maltreatment, abuse and neglect.”


The number of child fatalities due to child abuse and neglect decreased in fiscal year 2017, after increasing steadily for several years. A national estimate of 1,720 children died from abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2017 compared to 1,750 children who died in fiscal year 2016. Estimated referrals to CPS for investigation response or alternative response increased by 15 percent from fiscal year 2013 (3,598,000) to (4,136,000) in fiscal year 2017. A referral may include more than one child. Of the estimated7.5 million children who were included in a referral, 3.5 million children received an investigation or alternative response.


“We are experiencing increases in the number of children referred to CPS at the same time that there is a decrease in the number of children determined to be victims of abuse and neglect,” said Jerry Milner, Acting Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau. “At the federal level, using the National Child Abuse and Neglect Database System (NCANDS) to capture and analyze CPS data will inform our understanding of this phenomenon.”


When states submit their data, they are also afforded the opportunity to submit commentary that may provide context to the data published in the report. States’ commentaries suggest the increased usage and implementation of alternative response programs and changes to state legislation and child welfare policies and practices, may have contributed to the changes noted in the 2017 metrics.


Each state has its own definitions of child abuse and neglect that are based on standards set by federal law. Most states recognize four major types of maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment and sexual abuse. Although any of the forms of child

maltreatment may be found separately, they can occur in combination.


The child maltreatment report is from NCANDS, a voluntary national data collection and analysis program of state child abuse and neglect information based upon data received from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

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